10 Outrageous Diet Scams

Here at Mark’s Daily Apple we know that the key to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is a healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritious diet and plenty of physical activity. Tough? Sure. Effective? Absolutely.

But what if someone told you that you could ditch the exercise and the healthy eating and still fit in your favorite jeans? You know by now that it’s not going to work, but for millions of Americans it sounds like a solution worth signing up for!

And so, with no further adieu, the top 10 diet scams:

Fat and Carb Blocking Pills:

Feel like splurging on a plate of Fettuccini Alfredo? All you have to do is pop a pill and you can enjoy it completely guilt free! Or at least that’s what the makers behind fat and carbohydrate blocking pills would love for you to believe. The latest on the market is the heavily promoted Alli, which promises to block fat absorption by giving you stomach cramps, severe gas, chronic diarrhea, and an oily anal discharge (trust us – it’s even in the marketing material, where they also recommend that you wear dark clothes or bring a change of outfits until your body “adjusts” to the chemicals in the pill). Another bad side effect? None of these fat or carbohydrate blocking pills have ever actually been proven to aid in substantial weight loss.


It started out sounding like a pretty decent diet…almost sensible even. Based on the popular Atkins diet, this one advocated reducing carbohydrate intake, but then also reducing fat, calories, and fiber. So what are you left with? Uhh…well, basically a diet that is dangerously low in calories, fatty acids and nutrients – think a meal plan topping out at about 600 calories – which, by today’s standards, is very much considered to be borderline starvation. Adding a further aura of shadiness to the concept of the whole diet, the website that included information on the diet was run by a woman who allegedly refused to identify herself, had no credentials as a health professional or nutritionist, and who encouraged people who exhibited signs of disordered eating to stick with the diet and continue restricting foods. The icing on the no-fat, low-cal, carb-free cake? The “success” stories posted on the website were illustrated with photos of Russian mail-order brides!


Need a weight loss drug? How about 3? Meet stackers, which generally include some combination of the ECA Formula (ephedra, caffeine and aspirin) to boost metabolism and help aid in weight loss. When they first hit the market, the combination was thought to increase circulating norepinephrine (a factor that was prolonged thanks to the aspirin), increase thermogenesis, and boost metabolism (you can thank the caffeine for that) to help boost weight loss. Unfortunately, however, stackers frequently caused headaches, dizzy spells, jitters, and heart palpitations – and therefore have fallen out of favor with dieters the world over.

Herbal Weight Loss Teas:

They claim that drinking a few teas a day will magically lose weight, and maybe it will…temporarily at least. You see, the thing about tea is that it contains caffeine, one of natures most powerful diuretics, so while the numbers on the scale might go down, they’ll creep back up the moment you have a big glass of water. The only time when they can help with weight loss? If you (well, no, not you…but some people) use the tea as a substitute for high calorie, sugar-laden beverages.

Diet Patches:

Tobacco patches? Relatively effective. Diet patches? Not so much. What you’re typically getting in these patches is the same thing you would get in a pill, only there really is no evidence that these chemicals can penetrate the skin. But that patch sure does look snazzy!

Magnetic Jewelry and other Body Adornments:

Ahh… weight loss jewelry. Whether its leveraging magnets to re-channel your chi or pumping your body full of mineral elements designed to maximize weight loss, the bottom line is that the only type of metal accessory that can help spur weight loss is having your mouth wired shut… which is generally effective…at least until you get a food processor.

Body Wraps and Sauna Suits:

Some people will do anything to maximize their workout…even dressing in possibly the ugliest sweat suit in the world. However, the reality is the only thing that is being maximized is their fluid loss. The same goes for lying in a treatment room in a fancy spa – you might feel slimmer for a few hours, but the second you put a little water back into your body, you’ll be right back at square one.

Super Slippers and Insoles:

Whether it’s the potential of reflexology, acupressure or just a play on gravity, there are a number of orthotics on the market that claim they can aid weight loss. The downside? They will not help you lose weight. Need a silver lining? Maybe they’ll save you from a blister or two!

Apple Cider Vinegar:

Is there much of a difference between apple cider vinegar and the regular vinegar you put on your salads? Well, if the manufacturers are to be believed, the apple-based vinegar can help banish your body of toxins, boost your metabolism and significantly reduce your diet. The reality? Vinegar is a lovely condiment, but it’s probably not worth counting on it to aid in your weight loss.


Those with a chem or biology background would probably instantly identify pyruvate as an intermediary compound in the metabolism of glucose, so it seems only normal – sensible even – to think that pyruvate might help in weight loss. Unfortunately, however, there is absolutely no scientific evidence that supplementing your diet with pyruvate will help spur weight loss.

Turtblu, Pete Ashton, pireus+, s.o.f.t., cambiodefractal, josefuteimu, felishumanus, e-magic Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

More Tuesday 10 Posts

10 Great Alli Leaks, Ooops, Links

Men’s Health: Alli – A Jagged Little Pill

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[tags]diet scams, Alli, weight loss bracelet, pyruvate, diet patches, magnetic jewelry, weight loss tea[/tags]

TAGS:  Hype, marketing

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